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Citing health benefits, Biden EPA cracks down on industrial soot pollution

By Jake Beardslee · February 7, 2024

In brief…

  • Expected to prevent thousands of premature deaths and asthma attacks annually
  • Sets tougher PM2.5 standards to be phased in 2025-2032
The EPA set new air quality standards to reduce soot emissions from power plants, refineries and other industrial sources in order to improve public health.  The White House/Wikimedia

The Biden administration finalized a new rule on Wednesday that will impose tougher standards on soot pollution from industrial sources like tailpipes, smokestacks and power plants. The new standards from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are expected to prevent thousands of premature deaths each year, according to The Associated Press.

“This rule really does represent what the Biden-Harris administration is all about, which is understanding that healthy people equal a healthy economy,” said EPA Administrator Michael Regan in announcing the new standards. “We do not have to sacrifice people to have a prosperous and booming economy.”

The fine particle pollution, known as PM 2.5, can lodge deep in the lungs and enter the bloodstream, triggering asthma attacks, cardiovascular damage, and premature death. The EPA estimates that the new rule could prevent up to 4,500 premature deaths per year after it takes full effect. It is also expected to prevent 800,000 asthma attacks annually and yield $46 billion in net health benefits by 2032.

The new standards will hit hardest on industrial sources like power plants, steel mills, and refineries. Industry groups have warned the stricter regulations could lead to shut downs and job losses, though the EPA projects only modest economic impacts. Environmental and public health groups strongly supported the new rule, saying it will improve the health of all Americans, especially minorities and children who live near major sources of industrial pollution.

The new PM 2.5 standards will phase in between 2025 and 2032 as older power plants and facilities install upgraded pollution controls. The EPA projects most of the country will be able to meet the new limits through existing technologies, though some industrial hot spots may require additional reductions.